Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

The Falcons have had an up and down season, but they have consistently ranked in the top-5 of my roster rankings all season. They are not as well coached as last season, when they were the best team in the NFC, but they still have essentially the same core as last season and they could be ready to go on a run, following back-to-back quality wins over the Cowboys and Seahawks. This week they have an easy home game against the Buccaneers, which they have a good chance to win by double digits. They have flopped as big home favorites against the Bills and Dolphins earlier this year, but they’ve also won big as small home favorites against the Packers and Cowboys this season, so they should be able to blow out Tampa Bay if they are focused.

The Buccaneers have won back-to-back games, but they have come against the Jets and Dolphins and neither was an easy win. Prior to those 2 games, they lost back-to-back games by double digits to the Panthers and Saints, comparable teams to the Falcons. Their offense took a big hit when Jameis Winston got hurt, but their defense is very banged up as well. They are missing starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and their top-3 defensive ends, including top edge rusher Robert Ayers, who will miss his first game of the season this week. They should have a very tough time with Atlanta’s passing attack this week. Given all that the Buccaneers are missing, I have this line calculated at -13, so we are getting significant line value with the Falcons at -9.5. As long as you can get lower than 10, the Falcons should be the pick this week.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -9.5

Confidence: Medium

New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

I didn’t have confidence in either side of the Rams/Vikings game last week in Minnesota, but I was rooting for the Rams so I could get a better line with the Saints in this matchup this week. The Saints were -2.5 on the early line and I thought we could get -3 if the Rams could pull out the upset in Minnesota against a Vikings team that had to play again in 4 days on Thanksgiving. Instead, the Rams lost by 17 and this line remains at 2.5. About 15% of games are decided by exactly a field goal, so not getting protection against a Rams field goal win really hurts the Saints’ chances of covering.

The Rams’ loss in Minnesota against a team in a bad spot reinforced my belief that the Rams’ strong start was largely the result of a weak early schedule, but the Saints are not nearly at 100% in this game. They lost talented starting defensive end Alex Okafor for the season with a torn achilles, while their top-2 cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley will miss at least this week with injury. Those three players have been key to this team’s defensive turnaround this season, so the Saints could struggle defensively this week. The Rams have some injury problems too, with top receiver Robert Woods and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman out with injury, but they aren’t missing nearly as much as the Saints.

Even without those three, the Saints are still probably the best team the Rams have faced this season though, as they are a legitimate top-3 roster when healthy. The Rams have gotten to 7-3 on an easy schedule, as 5 of their 7 wins have come against the Cardinals, Colts, 49ers, Texans, and Giants. Beating the Cowboys and Jaguars is impressive, but the Cowboys were without top linebacker Sean Lee in that game and the Rams scored two special teams touchdowns against the Jaguars. In addition to that, they’ve also lost at home to the Seahawks and Redskins.

The Saints could easily make that 3 home losses, as they are better than both Seattle and Washington. The Rams haven’t had much homefield advantage since moving to Los Angeles anyway, going 3-8 ATS there since moving before the 2016 season. The Rams don’t have quite the same trouble getting home fans in Los Angeles as the Chargers, but they do attract a lot of road fans and I’d expect that to be the case this week for this big game. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -2, so we are getting some line value with the Saints at +2, but I’d need the full field goal to be confident in the Saints. I will make a small bet on the money line at +110 though, as I do expect the Saints to win.

New Orleans Saints 23 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +2

Confidence: Low

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-7)

The Titans were 6.5 point favorites over the Colts on the early line last week, but this line has since moved to a field goal, as a result of Tennessee’s big blowout loss in Pittsburgh last week. I typically love betting against significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and that’s the case here as well. Tennessee obviously looked terrible last week, but they were on the road on a short week against one of the toughest teams in the league. Marcus Mariota threw a career high 4 interceptions, but he previously has never thrown more than 2 in a game and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis anyway, so the Titans have a great chance to bounce back this week in a much easier matchup.

The Titans are still a borderline top-10 team in my rankings, while the Colts are one of the worst teams in the league. This line suggests these two teams are about 6 points apart, but I have them about 8.5-9 points apart, so I have this line calculated at -6, close to the early line last week. About 30% of games are decided by 3-6 points, so we’re getting significant line value with the Titans as mere 3 point favorites. At 3, this is my Pick of the Week. This line is at -3.5 in some places, but you can at least get -3 with extra juice everywhere. This could be a field goal game, so I would pay a little extra for the field goal protection if I had to.

Tennessee Titans 26 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

These two teams both got off to great starts, but both have skidded in recent weeks. The Bills started the year 5-2, but have lost 3 straight games by a combined 80 points since then, while the Chiefs started the year 5-0, but have since lost 4 of 5. Both teams are arguably coming off their worst week of the season as well, as the Bills lost 54-24 in Los Angeles to the Chargers and the Chiefs lost in overtime in New York to the previously 1-8 Giants, despite coming off of a bye.

The Bills are in a better spot this week though. The Chiefs could be a little tired after a road overtime loss (home teams cover at a 43% spread off of a road overtime loss since 1989) and could overlook a Bills team that is coming off of back-to-back blowout losses. It’s counter-intuitive, but teams are 45-32 ATS since 2002 after back-to-back 21+ point losses, as teams tend to be overlooked, embarrassed, and underrated after two big losses in a row. The Bills could be all three of those things this week, and, at the very least, they are definitely underrated.

Despite Kansas City losing to a previously 1-win team, this line has actually shifted a half point in Kansas City’s favor since the early line last week, as the Chiefs are now 10 point favorites after being favored by 9.5 last week.That’s despite the fact that the Bills played an underrated Chargers team and played a lot better after pulling unprepared rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw 5 first half picks, for Tyrod Taylor, who should have remained the Bills’ quarterback all along.

Taylor is back under center this week for the Bills, which should put this offense back on track. They got blown out by the Saints even with Taylor the week before, but the Saints are one of the best teams in the league. Before that, they lost to the Jets in New York by 13, but that was because they lost 3 fumbles, something that hasn’t been the norm for this team this season. The Bills are far from a great team, but they were a capable opponent just a few weeks back and could easily bounce back over the next few weeks.

I think the Chiefs’ recent struggles are actually more concerning, because their offense has predictably fallen back to earth after starting the season on a record pace in turnover rate and big play rate, but their defense has continued to struggle mightily since losing safety Eric Berry in the opener. They still rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 39.42% and, as a result, they rank 24th in first down rate differential at -2.48%, even with an offense that still ranks 5th in first down rate on the season. Their only win in their last 5 games came at home to the Broncos, who have lost 6 straight, a game in which the Broncos won the first down batlle 23 to 16 and outgained the Chiefs by over 100 yards. I only have the Chiefs about 2.5 points better than the Bills in my rankings, so we’re getting a lot of line value with the Bills as 10 point underdogs.

Ordinarily homefield advantage is worth about 3 points, but the Bills are in a good spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss, as teams are 118-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 254-268 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 376-517 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. Given that, I have this line calculated at about -4 or -4.5, so we’re getting a ton of line value with the Bills at +10.

The Bills do have a tough home game next week against New England and could quit if they get down big early (teams are 22-46 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point home underdogs), but I see this being a close game. The Chiefs are particularly weak against the run on defense and the Bills should be able to run all over them with Taylor and LeSean McCoy, which will make it tough for Kansas City to pull away. If the New England game wasn’t on deck for the Bills, this would be my Pick of the Week, but it’s a high confidence pick nonetheless.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Buffalo Bills 23

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +10

Confidence: High

Carolina Panthers at New York Jets: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6)

The NFC is loaded with playoff contenders, but the Panthers are in good position for at least a wild card coming out of their bye at 7-3. They are also big road favorites this week in New York against the Jets, which is typically a good spot for a team coming out of a bye. Road favorites of 3.5+ are 53-28 ATS since 1989 and the Panthers are 6 point favorites here. However, that record drops to 11-10 ATS when the opponent is also coming off of a bye, and the Jets are also coming off of their bye. On top of that, I don’t think the Panthers deserve to be 6 point favorites, as I have this these teams about 6 points apart in my rankings, meaning I have this line calculated at just 3 in favor of the visiting Panthers. Given that 30% of games are decided by 3-6 points, that’s a significant difference.

The Jets are not that talented of a team, but they are relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league and they at least try hard and are well coached under Todd Bowles and his staff, which makes them the best of about 7 or 8 bottom tier teams. They Jets are also 5-0 ATS this season at home, including an overtime win over the now 7-3 Jaguars and close losses against the 8-2 Patriots and 6-4 Falcons. If they can give those teams tough games, they should be able to give the Panthers a tough game as well. Carolina is a good team, but they’re not quite as good as their record, as they are just 3-2 in games decided by a touchdown or more. The Jets are worth a small bet as this could be another close win for the Panthers, who have 3 victories by at least 3 points already this season.

Carolina Panthers 20 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +6

Confidence: Medium

New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-8) at Washington Redskins (4-6)

Both of these teams come into this game in a terrible spot, as both played games that went to overtime last week and the history of teams playing an overtime game on Sunday and then playing again on Thursday is not good. Teams are 3-21 ATS in that spot all-time as long as they are facing an opponent who is not coming off of an overtime game. Unfortunately, because both of these teams are coming off of overtime games, that trend isn’t useful in evaluating this game.

That’s not the only bad spot these teams are in either. The Redskins lost in overtime in New Orleans last week and home teams tend to struggle off of a road overtime loss anyway (43% cover since 1989), while the Giants won at home as double digit underdogs against the Giants and teams also tend to struggle after a big home upset win anyway (44% cover since 1989 after a win as 4+ point home underdogs). The Redskins are coming off of a huge blown 4th quarter lead, while the Giants are coming off of arguably their Super Bowl, so I don’t expect either teams’ best effort on a short week this week, especially since both teams are coming off of overtime games.

Neither team has an easy upcoming matchup either, as the Giants turn around and go to Oakland, while the Redskins turn around and go to Dallas. Underdogs of 6+ are 56-92 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6+ again, which the Giants likely will be next week (the early line has them -7 in Oakland). Meanwhile, divisional home favorites are 24-62 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs, which the Redskins likely will be next week (the early line has them -3 in Dallas). I’m taking the Giants because I have this line calculated at 6.5, so we’re getting some line value with them as 7 point underdogs, but it’s not nearly enough for me to be confident at all in them, especially since they’re in a terrible spot.

Washington Redskins 19 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (8-2) at Detroit Lions (6-4)

I did not have strong confidence in either side in the Rams/Vikings matchup last week, but I was hoping the Rams would win. The Vikings were 1.5 point underdogs in Detroit on the early line last week in this Thanksgiving matchup and I thought the line might move to 3 if the Vikings lost. I would have been very excited to bet the Vikings as 3 point underdogs, especially if the Vikings switched quarterbacks from Case Keenum to Teddy Bridgewater following a loss. The Lions have had a lot of trouble with top level teams in the past couple seasons and they’ve been a mediocre team in first down rate differential over those two seasons as well.

Instead, the Vikings beat the Rams 24-7 and this line subsequently moved to 3 in favor of the Vikings, so a completely different outcome than I was hoping for. That 4.5 point line movement seems like a major overreaction to the Vikings’ win last week. The Rams are a quality opponent, but were not as good as their 7-2 record suggested because they had faced such a weak schedule. That win also keeps Keenum as the Vikings’ quarterback for another week. Keenum is playing as well as he ever has, but Bridgewater was a legitimate franchise quarterback before going down and probably still gives them a better chance to win the Super Bowl. He’s the quarterback the Vikings should be starting in the postseason if they want to make a deep run and it’s in their best interest to get him get some starts in the regular season before then.

Given this line and that Keenum remains the starter for the Vikings, I actually like the Lions’ a decent amount this week. The Lions have had first down rate differentials of -1.90% and -2.49% over the past two seasons respectively and they are 1-4 this season against teams with winning records, after not beating a single playoff team all season in 2016. However, getting a field goal cushion with them is nice, given that about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. They also beat the Vikings earlier this year in Minnesota, in their 1 win over a team with a winning record. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win again, but the Lions are healthier now than they were then with talented left tackle Taylor Decker back from injury and I have this line calculated at even, so we are getting line value with the Lions here. The Vikings also haven’t had a ton of success against winning teams either, as last week was Keenum’s first victory over a likely playoff opponent and it came against a team that has also faced a weak schedule. This is a low confidence pick, but the money line makes some sense given that it’s at +130 and that this game is a toss up at best.

Detroit Lions 24 Minnesota Vikings 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

When I saw the Chargers were 4-point underdogs last week on the early line in Dallas in this Thanksgiving game, I liked them a lot. However, in the past week, the Cowboys were blown out at home by the Eagles, their second straight big loss without suspended feature back Ezekiel Elliott, and the Chargers blew out the Bills, who started overwhelmed 5th round rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. I can’t complain too much about those outcomes because I picked both the Chargers and the Eagles last week, but, as a result, we’ve lost a ton of line value with the Chargers, who now enter now as 1 point favorites.

The public has completely soured on the Cowboys after back-to-back big blowout losses in nationally televised games, but the Cowboys will likely get talented left tackle Tyron Smith back from injury this week. The common thinking is that the Cowboys’ struggles in the last two weeks are primarily as a result of the loss of Elliott, but, considering how bad Smith’s backups have been, I think Smith was a bigger loss for this offense. Even if he’s not at 100%, his return is huge for this offense. Dak Prescott is a much better quarterback when he isn’t under pressure all game and Alfred Morris has done a decent job as the lead runner in Elliott’s absence.

The Chargers are still the better team even with Smith healthy though, as they rank 6th in first down rate on the season +3.66%, despite an underwhelming 4-6 record. Four of their 6 losses have come by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. Overall, they’re actually pretty impressive, considering their lack of homefield advantage in their new home in Los Angeles. With better luck in close games and an actual home field advantage, they could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now. Away from Los Angeles, they are 4-1 ATS this season, with their one non-cover coming in an 8-point loss as 7.5 point underdogs. That’s been a trend for them since their San Diego days, as they are 14-7 ATS on the road since 2015.

The Cowboys also have had no homefield advantage in recent years, but for different reasons. Because they tend to attract fans throughout the country, their advantage at home significantly less and that’s noticeable in the numbers. They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 per game, as opposed to 31-32 at home (22-41 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.27 per game. Homefield advantage hasn’t even counted for a full point for them over the past 7 seasons. They’ll also still be without linebacker Sean Lee, who is arguably their most important defensive player. Given all of that, I have the Chargers about 3 points better than the Cowboys and I have this line calculated at about -2 or -2.5. We aren’t getting much line value with the Chargers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -1

Confidence: Low

2017 Week 11 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

PHI -4.5 @ DAL

High Confidence Picks

CHI +3 vs. DET

Medium Confidence Picks

KC -9.5 @ NYG

WAS +10 @ NO

SEA +1.5 vs. ATL

Low Confidence Picks

HOU -1 vs. ARZ

TB PK @ MIA

CLE +7.5 vs. JAX

LAC -6 vs. BUF

GB +2 vs. BAL

NE -7 vs. OAK

No Confidence Picks

DEN -2.5 vs. CIN

LAR +2.5 @ MIN

TEN +7 @ PIT

Upset Picks

CHI +140 vs. DET

GB +110 vs. BAL

SEA +105 vs. ATL

Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Houston Texans (3-6)

Both of these teams have had their season derailed by injuries to their starting quarterback, as Carson Palmer and Deshaun Watson are out indefinitely with a broken arm and a torn ACL respectively. As a result, these two teams are starting Blaine Gabbert and Tom Savage respectively, two of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Quarterback isn’t the only place these two teams are banged up though. The Cardinals have lost left tackle DJ Humphries, running back David Johnson, left guard Mike Iupati, outside linebacker Markus Golden, and safety Tyvon Branch for the season with injuries, while the Texans are missing defensive end JJ Watt, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, defensive end Christian Covington, and wide receiver Will Fuller.

With all that these two teams are missing, they are two of the worst teams in the entire NFL. I have them more or less even in my roster rankings, suggesting that the hometown Texans should be favored by about a field goal. Given that, we are getting line value with them as just 1 point home favorites, but it’s not enough for me to bet on Houston confidently. For pick ‘em purposes, the Texans should be the pick, but I would not recommend betting on either of these teams.

Houston Texans 20 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Houston -1

Confidence: Low